Goodbye and Hello

June 16, 2010

David Grant and Chris Daggett

Photo by Kevin Coughlin

To our all grantees, friends and colleagues who are experiencing this leadership transition with us, we share both a farewell message from outgoing President and CEO David Grant as well as a welcoming message from Dodge’s new President and CEO Chris Daggett. We urge you to read both, as well as to listen to Morristown Green’s podcast of the joint interview (also on our homepage) which Kevin Coughlin conducted with David and Chris. In it, David and Chris share their views on sustainability, training tomorrow’s leaders, and the role of philanthropy in a tough economic climate, among other topics. We believe their messages coupled with the podcast will give you a sense of both where we’ve been and where we’re going. Goodbye to David, and hello to Chris!

* * *

Almost twelve years ago, when I wrote my first introduction to a Dodge Foundation Annual Report, I invoked Robert Frost’s poem The Pasture. Placing the poem at the beginning of his collected works, Frost invites the reader into a world filled with images of spring and flow and rebirth – cleared springs and newborn calves tottering by their mothers – and wrote: We shan’t be gone long/You come too.

I was inviting our Annual Report readers into a world that struck me as similarly inspiring — full of the creativity of Dodge’s grantees and the Foundation’s own initiatives. Now I think I was writing to myself as well. We shan’t be gone long – indeed the twelve years have flown by, and I find myself full of gratitude at the end:

  • For the people in the civic sector whom Dodge is so privileged to support. If there is ever to be “a society more humane, a world more livable,” as the Dodge mission language envisions, it will be because of the cumulative effects of their work;
  • For the Dodge Board, which was not afraid to take risks. The Foundation’s response to 9/11, the launching of the New Jersey Cultural Trust, the construction of the green building at 14 Maple Avenue – all are testament to creative governance;
  • For the Dodge staff, who are a mission-driven, hard-working, fun-loving group. They know that it is not only what they do but also how they do it that has defined Dodge’s place in the world. The day-to-day fellowship with them, doing work that matters, is what I will miss the most.

I wish Chris Daggett all the best as he takes on the leadership of this remarkable institution, and I thank all of the people who have been so supportive of Nancy and me and our sons Ben and Rob during our years in New Jersey.

With best regards,

* * *

Greetings! I come to Dodge with an overwhelming number of good wishes from people across the state, many of whom I have met over my years of involvement in the public, private and non-profit sectors, and others of whom I have never met, but who have great respect and hope for the work of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

Those good wishes are both appreciated and humbling. I fully recognize the legacy of excellence and good works of Dodge’s first two leaders, Scott McVay and David Grant, and greatly appreciate the trust placed in me by the board of directors to carry on the tradition they established.

There is much to do, particularly given the state of the economy and the pressures placed on grantees by the decline in financing by individuals, governments and foundations. But times of turmoil are also times of opportunity – and foundations can lead the way by supporting the best programs of the past, and the new ideas that will shape the future. The key is to get the right balance of the two.

I am confident that the success of my predecessors will continue – but as good as the staff and board of the foundation may be, we cannot do it alone. We need your help – or, in the words of Robert Frost quoted by David Grant in his companion letter, “You come too”. Together, and led by our grantees, we will meet the challenges of the day.

I look forward to working with you.